Small firms are doing big things in the world of architecture. WentzDesign, in collaboration with Phoenix Architecture, recently completed a 75,000-square-foot office project in Deerfield Township for London Computer Systems (LCS), an IT company headquartered in Cincinnati best known for its property management software Rent Manager®.
It was the largest project to date for WentzDesign since founder Mike Wentz started his architecture firm in 2004. "We won the project in a design competition against much larger firms," he says. "Dave Hegemann, the CEO of LCS, loved what we came up with, and it helped that as a smaller firm we could offer a competitive fee as well."
Hegemann was adamant about creating a special place for employees to work. "He’s competing with Silicon Valley in terms of attracting and retaining talent," Wentz says. "Early on, we knew his goal was to create a campus feel – lots of indoor and outdoor spaces that promote flexibility and cooperation."
WentzDesign conducted an expansion for LCS in 2010, increasing the company’s office space in Loveland from 5,000 square feet to 15,000, but the company has grown steadily since then. "They were adamant about keeping their workforce and holding on to the talent that exists nearby, so Deerfield wasn’t a far move for them," Wentz says. "They simply needed more space immediately, as well as expansion space beyond the initial building."
Previously, LCS would rent temporary office space off-site when they needed additional space. While looking for areas to build a new facility, the current site was attractive due to its proximity to Interstate 71 and highway visibility.
Wentz was excited to collaborate with another firm for the first time. "We were invited to put a proposal together for the design competition, but in order for us to do that as a small business, we needed to bring in another group to help," he says. Wentz turned to Phoenix Architecture. "We had some mutual clients, and I knew that they had experience in the multi-story office market."
Wentz and Phoenix went to work, putting extensive effort into mixing indoor and outdoor spaces. There are five balconies on the structure, which Wentz says is unique for office buildings in Cincinnati. It also includes an outdoor terrace, tucked away from the interstate yet facing an adjacent pond.
They had to get creative to develop the ambiance of a campus in one building. Wentz says, "To do that, we kind of split the building in half with a three-story atrium connecting the two sections. We wanted to create a feeling of everyone working together on the same team within the same space instead of harsh divisions between floors, the way traditional mulit-story buildings are planned."
There was a roadblock to the lobby atrium due to safety codes, but the design team solved that with a sophisticated smoke evacuation system of air wells and exhaust fans that will channel out smoke in case of a fire. "The collaborative process was also fun," Wentz says. "Working with an outside firm wasn’t difficult at all. It didn’t feel much different from typical collaborations with multiple disciplines on other projects."
WentzDesign won yet another competition with Phoenix Architecture – this time for a 90,000-square-foot project for a health company in Mason. That project is on hold as the client transitions to new ownership, but they look forward to starting.
"We’ve grown every year we’ve been in business," Wentz says. "As a smaller company, instead of specializing, we diversified, doing all kinds of residential and commercial projects."
That diversity, along the flexibility of a small firm has allowed Wentz to grow his business. With their close-knit team and love for a good challenge, WentzDesign is leading a path for Cincinnati architecture.
WentzDesign is located at 7813 Ted Gregory Lane, Suite C, Cincinnati, OH 45242. For more information, call 513.745.0420 or visit WentzDesign.com.
Phoenix Architecture, LLC is located at 9467 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242. For more information, call 513.745.9209 or visit Phoenix-Arch.com.